By Art Eddy
Attention to my fellow bloggers out there. Don’t mess with Jeff Gordon. If you don’t believe me just ask “Jalopnik” writer Travis Okulski. Last year when Pepsi Max released a commercial that featured the well-known NASCAR driver wearing a disguise to pull a fast one (literally) on an unsuspecting car salesman many thought that ad was staged. Okulski was making his voice heard saying that the commercial was fake.
Well Jeff and Pepsi Max were listening. They teamed up with Okulski’s friend to show the writer that these commercials are real. The new Pepsi Max ad has Gordon in the role of an ex-con now taxi driver. When Gordon gets pulled over by the cops he gets nervous and tries to out run the police officer. Next a high speed chase ensues. The ad is priceless and it is a moment that Okulski will never forget.
I was able to talk with the four time NASCAR Cup Series Champion about the new Pepsi Max ad, racing, fatherhood, and which ride in his garage is his favorite.
Art Eddy: I am loving your Pepsi Max commercials. When this idea was first brought up to you what were your initial thoughts?
Jeff Gordon: We did the original one about a year ago. We had so much fun with it. It did really well. Pepsi Max in true max fashion wanted to take it to that next level and max it out. Conceptually how do we make this one even better? There is no use in doing another if you can’t step it up.
We knew a lot of people had questions about the first one. So we thought how can I do all the driving, all the stunts, and make sure that they know that this is as authentic as it gets. That was the whole thing about the authenticity of it. This whole production exceeded my expectations. It was unbelievably fun doing it.
There was also a lot of pressure. It was intense knowing that you got only one take to make sure that Travis from “Jalopnik” did not know who I was. Nor did we want him to at any point to think that this was a prank. We wanted to have him think that this was serious. Obviously from his reaction I think we succeeded.
AE: Yes you did. You got him. You got some acting chops there. Ever think about going into acting after NASCAR?
JG: Oh, I don’t know about that. They did some really nice editing. It is amazing that when you get in disguise how you can start to adapt into a character. It certainly is not something that I am used to doing, but I love that Pepsi took the risk and wanted to take it to the whole level of disguising me. They gave me a tattoo and I was an ex-con. Turning this Chevrolet into a taxi and looking at every safety precaution to pull this off.
When they take that much risk and go all out like that it makes me want to go all out. So I did. I had a ton of pressure on me to make sure that Travis had no idea who I was.
AE: I think you succeeded there Jeff. I was able to get a firsthand look at a NASCAR race at the Brickyard 400. I was able to walk around the garages and pits. It is incredible to see how much effort goes into your sport. Does it bother you when people that don’t know too much about NASCAR say that it is just people racing?
JG: Yeah. Either that or that our cars are not taken to the level of other forms of motorsports like Formula One. I think that when you come and see how NASCAR can keep the cars, the rules and limitations that we are under, and you see what we are actually capable of doing is incredible. 850 horsepower engines, the amount of down force we get in the cars, and the speeds that we carry make you have to look at the great race that is on the track. Like you said all that goes into it I think is a surprise for just about everybody who comes to their first race.
AE: For you which championship or victory do you cherish the most?
JG: Certainly not just by coincidence that you brought it up, but I would say the Brickyard 400. The first race they had in 1994 was and still is probably the biggest race and win of my career. If I just go to my trophy room in my house, even though that is the smallest trophy I have (both laugh) it is front and center which makes for a good story. The fact that it is so small as well, but definitely that race because I grew up in Indiana. I went to high school there. I always wanted to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So that was huge. It was a big event throughout the nation.
It is hard to say on the championship because the first one was really sweet and amazing to get. The fourth one because I went through a lot of changes with my team and Ray Evernham wasn’t my crew chief anymore. From a pure accomplishment standpoint that one really meant a lot to me. I was able to show what I was capable of bringing to the table as a driver and how Hendrick (Motorsports) can span across several years and many new team members and still go out there and get it done.
AE: Out of all the places you have raced which track is your favorite?
JG: I love Bristol probably the most. I like Atlanta. I like Bristol because it has short track action. Martinsville I really like for the short track action. I like a track that you got to slide the car around and really drive it and work with the team to get the car really working well. I think I am best on tracks where you have to have finesse. Atlanta Motor Speedway is that track.
AE: What is your favorite ride in your garage right now?
JG: I just bought a...